Mirror’s Edge

Mirror’s Edge is a game based upon Parkour, an informal sport invented by the French which has several times been attempted to be turned into a video game, though never resulting in particularly interesting load screens.

It is interesting that in French, “Parkour” is a homonym for the phrase “par coeur” which translates back into English as “by heart”, and this is certainly a game where you’ll end up knowing most of the levels by heart by the time you complete them.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention such a thing, except here it’s important, as when you die (which you will, frequently), you get to see a load screen.  More on that later.

Mirror’s Edge has no fewer than five different types of load screens, used for different purposes.  So with five load screens to cover and not much time, here we go!

Mirrors Edge Chapter Load Screen

Mirrors Edge Chapter Load Screen

 

As you enter a new chapter, you get a fully animated loading screen;  these play out like flash movies.  The early ones are better, the later ones start looking a lot cheaper.  Or maybe the novelty of the art style started wearing off and I started noticing places where things were sloppy, where I was inclined to let that slide, before.  Nonetheless, it’s smoothly animating throughout.  Once the load has completed, you can press a button to skip past the rest of the animation, or you can allow the animation to finish playing through.

So, this loading screen has smooth animation, which gives it a base score of four out of five.  It displays the word “Loading”, so it earns half of a penalty point, for a final score of three and a half points.

There is a different load screen when you switch between tutorial and main game, when you quit from the game to the main menu, when you load a saved game, and similar locations.  This load screen looks like this:

Mirror's Edge General Load Screen

Mirror’s Edge General Load Screen

In this screen, characters in silhouettes demonstrate moves and techniques from the game while the load occurs.  The animation is quite smooth, and there is text at the bottom of the screen, explaining the move being shown.

Smooth animation gives this screen a base four out of five points.  They again use the “Loading” text, which gives half of a penalty point.  Additionally, this load screen has a load spinner next to the “Loading” text, which awards a full penalty point.  The text at the bottom of the screen is not entertaining or particularly interesting, and does not change during the display, and so does not award a bonus point.

Mirror's Edge Invisible Load Screen

Mirror’s Edge Invisible Load Screen

Well, here we go, guys;  it’s our very first five-point load screen.  Here, we’ve just entered a lift.  I can still move and look around within the tight confines of the lift, my pals are still talking to me on the radio, but the game is loading invisibly in the background, and the lift doors don’t open until the load finishes.  This is a textbook definition of a five star loading screen.  Notice that no “loading” text or spinner is required here; the load “screen” exists entirely within the game world.  Bravo, DICE!

But all is not rosy in Mirror’s Edge-land…

Mirror's Edge Valve Load Screen

Mirror’s Edge Valve Load Screen

Here, I’m in the middle of a high-speed chase sequence, running away from people who are shooting at me with all kinds of unlikely ordinance.  I turn a corner, and suddenly..  everything stops.  It simply places the “Loading Level” text and a spinner over whatever had been displayed before.  When devising our rating scheme, it simply hadn’t occurred to me that people would still be doing this, after Valve was roundly ridiculed for doing it in Half-Life 2.

The new policy is that this technique counts as using a “still image”;  it’s better than going to flat black, but only barely.  Two base points out of five.  It also uses the “Loading” text, and has the spinner, so that’s 1.5 penalty points.

And there’s one final load screen.  In fact, this is the one that you’re likely to become most familiar with as you play Mirror’s Edge, as it’s the one shown whenever you die and respawn.  It doesn’t matter if you died right at the respawn point or if you ran halfway across the level, you’ll see this load screen.  Since you’ll be spending a lot of time with this load screen, let’s hope that it’s a good one.

Mirror's Edge Respawn Load Screen

Mirror’s Edge Respawn Load Screen

Damn.

Well, that’s a flat white screen with a spinner.  1 base point, 1 penalty point, zero points in total.

It’s too bad.  Mirror’s Edge has a lot going for it, including the invisible load screen, story progression taking place during the load screens, etc..  it was just let down by some really poor loads performed mid-level.

Here’s the final score:

Score

Chapter Load Screen

  • Smooth animation:  4 base points
  • Loading text:  0.5 penalty points
  • Rating: ★★★½☆

General Load Screen

  • Smooth animation: 4 base points
  • Spinning loading badge:  1 penalty point
  • Loading text: 0.5 penalty points
  • Rating: ★★½☆☆

Invisible Load Screen

  • Seamless-transition load screen: 5 base points
  • Rating: ★★★★★

Valve Load Screen

  • Frozen gameplay image: 2 base points
  • Spinning loading badge:  1 penalty point
  • Loading text: 0.5 penalty points
  • Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

Respawn Load Screen

  • Flat white screen: 1 base point
  • Spinning loading badge:  1 penalty point
  • Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆